The Milkweed Diaries

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harvest Celebration...with Sparklers

Above: corn patch

Left: harvest offerings


The beginning of August is one of the four main festivals of the ancient Celtic calendar, variously called Lá Lúnasa, Lughnasadh, or Lammas. Lúnasa falls halfway between the solstice and the equinox, and honors the beginning of the harvest season.

In various pagan traditions, this time of year is a time to offer gratitude to the earth for the food we eat. At this time of year when gardens are overflowing and the earth is so abundant, it can be easy get caught up in the frenzy of the season without stopping to take stock and give thanks. I love the tradition of pausing in gratitude for the harvest.

Harvest Altar with snakeskin and sunflower

In Old Irish the name of the festival was Lughnasadh; in Modern Irish, the name for the month of August is Lúnasa, with the festival itself being Lá Lúnasa.

The modern neopagan festival of Lammas is another incarnation of this holiday: when Christianity came to Ireland and the other Celtic nations, Lughnasadh was renamed Lammas or 'first loaf.'

Huckleberry potatoes from the garden

At Lammas, the custom was to bake a special loaf of bread from the first grains of the harvest, to place on an altar as an offering, or to eat at a celebratory feast. The concept of “the bread of life,” rituals of communal breaking of bread, and even the honoring of bread as the body of the divine, can be traced to these roots. Although we did not break bread together, we did commune over some fine potato salad, fresh tomatoes, and all manner of other homegrown and locally-foraged foods.

Lúnasa is traditionally a time of community gathering, feasting on homegrown food, & reunion with loved ones. We celebrated last night by the full-ish moon with food, homemade wine, family, and friends.

Gratitude Floats

My friend Dana (who blogs delightfully over at Dana-Dee) has a tradition of launching a raft covered with flowers and vegetables down one river or another at this time of year as an offering of gratitude for the harvest.

Dana came over yesterday afternoon and whipped up a bamboo raft in no time flat. Later, she decorated the raft with marigolds from Susie's garden and we all loaded it up with offerings from our gardens--okra, cucumbers, basil, garlic, dill, carrots, broccoli, and all sorts of miscellaneous beautiful and delicious things.

Christopher's sister Kelly is in town, and she led us in some old-time religion, after which we all trooped down to the river to launch our outlandlishly lovely little boat.

The raft floated off down the dark river, festooned with sparklers, candles, flowers, and food, and with marigolds floating all around it, to the strains of "The Love Boat" theme.

We walked home in the dark and shared a feast from the garden, meads and various other beverages, a wood-fired hot tub soak, and chocolate. A whole lot to be grateful for.

Lúnasa blessings:

May you never go hungry.

May you always be nourished.

May all be fed.

1 comment:

el said...

How wonderfully lovely!

And happy Lunasta to you. I did Imholc this year mainly because the winter was so dreadful. Lunasta makes me kind of sad; we're halfway done already? SNIFF! But: your raft is quite lovely.